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One to One: James Roy

James Roy discusses how we can apply ‘Lateral Thinking’ when it comes to superyachts and the industry as a whole…

In the latest edition of The Superyacht Group’s Digital Dialogues, Martin Redmayne is joined by James Roy, Managing Director at Lateral Naval Architects, to discuss how we can apply ‘Lateral Thinking’ when it comes to superyachts and the industry as a whole.

Lateral have recently celebrated their 1000th day of operating, and Redmayne begins by asking Roy for some of the highlights of those 1000 days. “I suppose what's great about our industry is the people and the projects and there's a real tapestry of very exciting things and exciting thoughts and colourful characters. There’s very rarely a boring day,” Roy summarises.

Redmayne dives into the conversation referencing a topic that arose during our previous One to One with Engel de Boer, asking Roy if he believes that enough is well thought through before a project starts? “I think one of the things - and it's just a fact of the nature of our projects - is that they have very long gestation times, and it takes a long time to build a very big yacht,” Roy begins. “Whether you believe that can be accelerated or not, I separate the construction time from what I call the ‘inception stage’, and actually the amount of time that's spent, certainly from a technical side in technical development of the blank sheet of paper to the core genesis, is actually very short. I would challenge that actually, is there enough thinking time that goes into that?

“Does enough exploration time go into that period? Often, we see very big decisions being taken very quickly… I think what this tends to lead to is that we were building the same old boat over and over again. Don't get me wrong, there are amazing boats and design advances, creativity advances, but the pace of technical development is very, very slow because of these very long project durations,” adds Roy.

Redmayne then asks Roy whether he feels that the industry might see some different results if clients and the teams around the clients would step back a bit and think a bit more laterally, or a bit more carefully.

“Some clients know exactly what they want, and maybe the focus of what they want is more on the design or the lifestyle feature of what's being delivered, and they’re less concerned about exploring the whole technical landscape of how that might support what they want… I think part of what drives the short pace of early work in our industry is also maybe that actually we've got quite a small pond that everyone's fishing in, and there is a race to get projects signed up because the investment on everyone's part in making these projects happen is quite significant. To have that security of workload for the shipyards particularly, is critical to maintaining that… and that may mean you need to actually push these projects quite hard at the beginning to get them,” Roy explains.

When asked if there are any key things that he would still change, or that he believes needs to change in our marketplace, Roy honed in on one of his previous comments. “Well, I think if you if you take the idea of ‘it's a small pond’, I suppose that if you reflect on how long the modern superyacht industry's been going and how many yachts are being built, every year there's another handful of 100m+ yachts delivered, you may think ‘how many 100m+ yachts does the world need? How much longer can this go on? But as you know yourself, from your own market research that you publish and talk about, the number of people who could afford such a boat is quite large compared to how many clients we actually have,” Roy responded.

Arguably, while the ‘pond’ is currently considered small, it has got the potential to be bigger, and if we could all try to make it bigger then perhaps there would be less pressure to race these projects to contract.

“I also wonder if, in superyachting, we're making even the idea of superyachting a compelling place to come and spend ones capital? I think at the moment, our industry has quite an old-fashioned approach,” adds Roy.

“How do you get anyone to want your product - you try and create desire… but at the moment we tend to do that based on the marketing of the lifestyle, and actually future stakeholders are not necessarily wooed by a flashy lifestyle. They might want more authentic reasons and maybe they need reasons to rationalize in their own head why they're going to go and spend and that amount of money,” he continues.

The pandemic will only have widened the gap between the rich and the poor, and Roy believes this is where we need to think particularly laterally when creating superyachts. “Superyachts have many reasons for why they're a force for good, for example, redistribution of wealth, technical innovation, uniting art and science together. There are lots of clever things we could do as an industry to make the pond bigger and maybe enhance our appeal to society,” comments Roy.

To hear more about Roy’s thoughts on encouraging clients to be excited by risk-taking, as well as his thoughts on future fuels and his predictions for the future, watch the full interview here

The One to One series is a collective campaign for change and industry improvement, and we welcome participants from all sectors. If you would like to take part or contribute your thoughts, please contact Eleanor Shepherd.  

You can view the ever-growing archive of Digital Dialogues here.

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One to One: James Roy

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